Referral Marketing 101: Turning Your Power Users Into App Advocates

This is a guest post from Vanhishikha Bhargava, the content marketer over at GetSocial.

Referral marketing is one of the most effective tactics for app growth. With thousands of apps introduced to both the iOS and Android stores every day, never underestimate the power of recommendations from your existing users to help you reach new ones – without exceeding your marketing budgets.

But how do you turn your users into advocates for your app?

Identify the power users, what they love about your app, and motivate them to become a part of your growth.

Turning your power users into app advocates

1. Make referrals incentivised

When The Joker said that you should never do anything you’re good at for free, he meant no one. Then why expect your users to recommend your app in their circles without expecting anything in return?

The simplest way to turn your referral campaign into a viral loop of recommendations is to offer incentives to your users for every time they invite a friend. While it might add to your app marketing budget slightly, it is definitely much less than the cost per acquisition on social media ads.

But the only thing you need to keep in mind here is to focus on being relevant to the user. The closer you are to his needs, the higher are his chances of wanting to participate in the program.

We loved Uber’s referral campaign which is clearly a win-win for everyone!

2. Run loyalty programs

If you think loyalty programs are only for online stores and brands, you’re mistaken. You can keep your power users as engaged as online store shoppers by appreciating, and rewarding them for their actions in the app.

Simply put, offering them a little incentive in-app, just for being consistent at using it or at achieving milestones, can keep them engaged longer. The longer their engagement, the more likely they are to recommend your app in their circles!

For example, Starbucks gives a star to their active customers for every purchase they make. These stars can then be redeemed in their next purchase, making it a better deal for them. A user as happy as this is sure to share the hack of getting a Starbucks for lesser in his circle.

3. Leverage social media

Social media isn’t just for sharing your app updates. Think about how a user would want to make use of it – sharing statuses, accomplishments, screenshots and more. That’s why you need to find a common ground between user generated content and your referral campaign.

Encourage your power players to share their achievements in the app on social media or on popular chat apps. In fact, every once in awhile, give them a shout out by sharing their post on your page as well!

A little bit of encouragement can definitely peak the interests of plenty new app users in their circles, who are yet to discover your app.

For example, we like how Runtastic encourages its users to share their accomplishments on social media – every time.

4. Implement instant gamification

Don’t just focus on using gamification in your app, try doing it instantly for the referred users. For example, nudge a new user to join his friend right from the level he is at in a game or the feature he is currently making use of in the game.

Implementing instant gamification hooks your news user to the app immediately, and also lets your existing user socialise with his circle in-app – extending his app session lengths exponentially!

The idea is to hook your users to the app and become their social channel, so they invite more people from their circles. So make use of referral invites that also pass on the existing user’s data along with the message. This will let the new user join in from the point he got an invite from.

5. Create an active community

Most apps only focus on acquiring new users. But what about keeping the existing ones engaged first? A great way to keep all your users active in the app is to create a community for them to be a part of.

Creating a community lets you offer impeccable support to your users and also let them network with like minded people. Using an activity feed or social media to create your community will also help users feel a sense of belonging to the app and keep all the negative reviews from reaching the app store!

An active and loyal community is just what you need to boost your referral campaign.

Wrapping it up

When a typical user has the option of downloading from a wide range of apps in the store, the idea is to be the one that is ‘most trusted’. While a big advertising budget might seem like the right thing to go for, recommendations from existing users will get you new ones at a lower cost per acquisition and also those that are more likely to remain loyal to the app.

There are many app marketing strategies that can boost your downloads, but start with first keeping your users engaged with a strong referral marketing campaign.

Again, remember to not just run a campaign from an acquisition point of view – keep a user first approach and offer something valuable in return instead!

About the author: Vanhishikha is the content marketer at GetSocial, an app marketing tool that focuses on improving user engagement and retention. Forever found on social, she is looking for great content ideas or new marketing hacks. You can find her on Twitter here.

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